Archive | February, 2013

The Worm Whisperer by Betty Hicks

27 Feb

every once in a while someone really captures what goes on in a 4th graders head, Betty Hicks has managed to do so in her new novel The Worm Whisperer. Right from the get-go, I could picture Ellis in my class. He’s decided he’s the class funny man, and I love the way Hicks shows us how he came to that position. It is such 4th grade logic.


Ellis is a boy who loves animals. Although he has a lot of chores on his family’s blueberry farm, he makes the most of his free time by spending it out near a pond where he’s made friends with the animals who live in & around it. It is also a place he can think about his family’s problems. His dad needs an operation and they don’t have the money for the deductible. He finds a wooly worm and decides to enter the local Wooly Worm Festival race to earn the money. He discovers a secret talent along the way and really bonds with Tink, his wooly worm. Although the book doesn’t end in the way we might expect, it is a satisfying ending that enhances the gentleness and warmth of the book.

Read Across America – Fox in Socks Day

26 Feb

Friday is Read Across America Day. The William Walker tradition is to celebrate every day. Today we celebrate Fox in Socks. The day opened with a mystery reader reading a portion of the book over the intercom. Kids and staff were encouraged to wear crazy socks and roll up their pant legs to show off their socks. Here are some photos.IMG_1115 IMG_1116


IMG_1119  IMG_1120IMG_1121  IMG_1122IMG_1123  IMG_1124

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2013 Hub Reading Challenge check-in #3

23 Feb

When I teach writing to kids, I usually have to probe to get them to add sufficient detail,  Christopher Paolini clearly does not suffer from this problem in Inheritance,  the final book in his Inheritance Cycle.


Last summer, I tried to sit down and read it, but just couldn’t bear to wade through the overabundance of detail.  When I saw it on the HUB Challenge list, I decided to give it a try as an audiobook. I can see why it appeared on the Amazing Audio list. Gerard Doyle does a fabulous job, keeping me connected to the story in spite of the writing. I don’t know how he kept up his enthusiasm for the story because mine flagged towards the end. Several times I thought Paolini could have stopped and I would have been satisfied.

I reread Alanna:the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. I had read these in the 90’s and listened to this series at the beginning of 2012, after reading the Beka Cooper series, which was awesome. It was nice revisiting an old friend.

To pad my list, I read 2  graphic novels: Drama by Rania Telgemeier and Stargazing Dog by Takashi  Murakami.

9780545326995    9781561636129

The first was a delightful quick read and about what one expects from the cover, title and description.  The second is darker than the cover suggests. It chronicles a man’s downward spiraling life and the dog who remains faithful to him. It made me rather sad.

Happy Thinking Day!

22 Feb


Today is Thinking Day. World Thinking Day is a day of friendship, advocacy and fundraising for 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world. A long time ago I was a Girl Guide and I still have my sash with all the badges I earned. Here is a picture of it.


I can still sing many of the songs I learned and am willing to admit I loved singing the Guiding song and marching into horseshoe formation. I even had a postcard of Lady Baden-Powell. A couple of years ago, my twin sister gave me this book for Christmas.


In it, Judy moves from Scotland to a private girls’ school in England. She solves a mystery AND starts a troop of  Girl Guides. Riveting stuff.

Last year, saw the release of two very nice books about the founder of the American Girls Scouts, Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low.

9780545342780      9780547243948

The first,  Here Come the Girl Scouts by Shana Corey is an easy read.  it outlines Low’s early years, establishing her outgoing & perky personality, connecting it to the woman who later brings Scouting to American girls. The illustrations are punctuated with pithy statements for the first handbook for girl scouts. A few of my favorites are “Fresh air is your great friend” and “Whatever you take up, do it with all your might”. End notes include famous Americans who were girls scouts, a more formal biography and a list of sources.

First Girl Scout by Ginger Wadsworth is a more detailed undertaking, at over 200 pages. It chronicles Low’s life in greater detail and is full of photographs and paintings they enhance our understanding of the times. Although she came from a life of privilege, she lived through the Civil War & Reconstruction in Georgia. This book has a much more extensive bibliography.  If you have any interest in the Scouting movement, I recommend it.

Kadir Nelson & Nelson Mandela

20 Feb

I have lived off & on with TV. In the last 2 decades, more off than on really.  I bought a brand new color TV in early 1990 and I vividly recall crying as I watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison. And now, Kadir Nelson has a


beautifully illustrated biography for kids. At first, I was a little disappointed by the text. As a history buff, I wanted meaty details. Then I noticed that the library had a “Beginning Facts” sticker on the book and realized that this was meant to be just that: an introduction for kids, and I reread it with new eyes and a new heart and it is good. As always, Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are amazing and tell as much of the story as the text, which is written like verse. A more formal biography is included at the end, as is a short bibliography.

This book would be an excellent addition to a classroom or school library.  Paired with books about more familiar names such as MLK, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, it can be used to stretch kids beyond their own borders and realize that civil & human rights are issues all over the world.

The Final Battle

19 Feb


When they eliminated my library job last year, I was devastated. Although many librarians  chose to move, I chose to stay at my school, for several reasons, but in mo small part because I wanted to continue running Battle of the Books. I had brought OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) to William Walker because I saw a small group of kids who loved reading the way I had when I was a kid. We began with 4 teams that first year. This year we have 8 teams, not all of which are strong, but all in possession of great heart.

And so, after 28 preliminary battles, we are down to the last battle to determine who will represent William Walker Elementary School at the Regional meet. I can’t tell you how anxious I feel and I’m not even competing. I wish there was a way both teams could win, but that’s not real life. Real life is learning to win and lose graciously.

At 2:30 today, the Bookworms and Red Sky will meet in the library. Their classes have been invited to watch. I wish both teams good luck.

2013 Hub Reading Challenge check-in #2

16 Feb

TBI – traumatic brain injury is a term I hear a lot on NPR. I sort of thought I understood it, but Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer provided insight into the degree to which TBI impacts the life of the person who has been injured  as well as the family and friends around them.


I was a little skeptical at first, worked it would glorify war, but it really didn’t. Whether you agree with the politics of war or not, this novel compassionately portrays the aftermath of injury. It got me thinking of Gabby Giffords to and the remarkable progress she’s made since she was shot in the head, and the long road she & her family still have in front of them. This book isn’t long, but it certainly makes you think.

More fun was Friends with Boys a graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks.


This was a very sweet, realistic (in spite of the ghost) portrayal of the difficulty of finding your place in high school. Brought back some memories for me. I had a popular, athletic twin sister who seemed to fit in right I away. I was the shy nerdy twin & had to work a little harder to find my niche.

Finally, I just finished The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth.


This debut novel also considers finding your place in the world against the backdrop of family tragedy, evangelical Christianity and the exploration of sexual orientation in rural Montana. Danforth treats the subject with a delicate hand and even makes Aunt Ruth, who sends Cameron to a private school to “cure” her of her homosexuality, believable.  You might not like what Aunt Ruth has to say, but you can see that she really believes she acting in Cameron’s best interest.

I’m still listening to Inheritance I have lots of HUB Challenge books sitting on the “to read” shelf, so there’ll be another post on the HUB books next Saturday.

George Washington: Renaissance Man – President’s Day Books #4

15 Feb

Presidents get pigeon-holed by their “legacy”  and we sometimes forget they had lives before, and even after.

Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas goes beyond the stereotypes we feed children about Washington.


Lynne Johnson’s detailed illustrations enhance the well researched text shows how Washington’s desire to create a self-sufficient farm mirrored the effort to create a new nation. Thomas includes excerpts for Washington’s letters and diaries to illustrate his thoughts on everything from compost and lambing to his thoughts on slavery.  It includes a timeline and bibliography. It is an excellent resource for teaching kids that presidents are real people and have real life problems to consider.

Abraham Lincoln – President’s Day Books #3

13 Feb

Yesterday, I read Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek:  A Tall, Thin Tale (introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) by Deborah Hopkinson, to my Level 1 ELD reading group.


I used it to teach them a note-taking technique that also involved sketching and today we’ll see how they do on the retell. Before hand we brainstormed Presidents they knew ) Obama, Washington, Lincoln & Kennedy).  We looked at a poster of all the presidents and they though some looked like girls and wondered why there were;t any girls.  Go team!!! Some were saddened to learn that you had to be born in the US to be eligible to be president. This was a good book to introduce presidential discussions.

Another great Lincoln book I read earlier in the year was Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship by Russell Freedman.


True confession time: not having really paid attention to the title I thought it was going to be a book about the Lincoln Douglas debates. I like the way it compared & contrasted the upbringings of the two men. I didn’t really know much about Douglass, except that he was an excellent abolitionist orator.  This gave me new insight into his earlier life and the relationship he & Lincoln shared.   Although it is beyond the reading level of my Level 1 readers, it is a recommended read.

Teddy Roosevelt – President’s Day Books #2

12 Feb

Having grown up in Canada, my knowledge of US history is sort of spotty, perhaps, not unlike many native born Americans. Because I work with children, I have had an opportunity to learn a lot from picture books.  They give me enough knowledge to function intelligently and occasionally enough interest to seek out more information, though perhaps not enough to site a thesis.

For some reason, I always thought Teddy R was a bit of a buffoon. He’s generally caricatured in movies in his Rough rider persona. So I was surprised to see that he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.

Three years before that, TR asked the famous naturalist John Muir  to take him on a camping trip in the California redwoods.


The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock details TR’s trip to Yosemite that led to the  declaration of the first 18  National Monuments, the founding of the first 55 bird sanctuaries and game preserves, the addition of 148 million acres to the National Forest and the  doubling of the number of National Parks. Mordecai Gerstein’s illustrations enhance the story, as do the author’s notes and sources at the back.

An earlier book, You’re on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt by Judith St. George gives some insight into the boy who became the 26th president.


This is the story of a sickly, near-sighted boy who overcame his obstacles through determination and hard work. Granted, he came from a wealthy family, so he had more opportunities than your average asthmatic bout in glasses in the late 19th century. But he certainly had an exuberance and inner fire that made him grab hold opportunities he was offered. This book is part of Judith St. George’s “Turning Point” series. More on those books, later.

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